The Prickle (@ThePrickle) August 23, 2016
Some concerts are jaw-dropping. Then there are those rare, precious concerts which are so overwhelming you have to seriously ask yourself if you can go back in after the interval without a drink in your hand. The Quincy Jones prom at the Royal Albert Hall reached this next level of transcendence, with arranger and curator Jules Buckley leading the flawless Metropole Orkest, alongside some of the most celebrated singers and musicians in the world: Laura Mvula, Jacob Collier, Cory Henry, Alfredo Rodriguez, and Richard Bona. An evening so relentless in genius, musicality and power that you can only leave feeling humbled, and truly honoured to have been part of it.
Quincy Jones is arguably best known for his writing, producing and arranging with the king of pop Michael Jackson, and famously on Thriller, the most commercially successful album of all time. We had to wait till after the interval for this, but it came: introducing Human Nature with Jacob Collier’s enchanted vocal and virtuosic piano over a glistening string section, gradually transforming into a euphoric, full orchestral rendition of the main hook. Effortlessly this became an avant-garde vocoder retelling of Billie Jean, with Jules Buckley himself stepping off the conducting podium out of sheer astonishment. For a normal concert, reinventing Michael Jackson for full 21st century orchestra would be jaw-dropping enough.
But here, the meat of the concert was (rightly) taken up with Quincy Jones’ prolific film and big band oeuvre. Under Jules Buckley’s baton, the magnificent Soul Bossa that closed the first half seemed to be reclaimed from Austin Powers, back to its pure majesty, with screams of applause for the jazz piccolo solo. The siren theme from Ironside, iconically used in Tarantino’s Kill Bill was given back its full jazz orchestral power. One moment melancholic strings soared through a film score, the next was vintage full-blown disco or a hearty, authentic blast of big band. There was no chronology, just sincere joy for a man of such variety of talents, over so many decades.
The finale, by which time the audience was already on its feet, was the arrival of the 83-year-old teddy bear titan himself, thanking the ensemble and the audience, and then conducting a blast through of the big band classic Let The Good Times Roll. This personal and humble address was the one moment in two and a half hours where we were allowed to breathe, to remember that he, and these musicians, were humans like us. But any more moments like that and we would have had to miss out some divine music instead. And an evening of diamonds doesn’t speak, it shines. Watch it on BBC Four and see for yourself.